Dickinson Wright relocates to Troy business corridor

Of the top 10 largest law firms in Michigan, four have had branch offices in or around the Woodward Avenue-Long Lake Road intersection of Bloomfield Hills.

Come the end of this week, there will be one fewer, as Dickinson Wright PLLC will move its Woodward-Lone Pine office to the Bank of America Building in Troy.

“The main motivating factor for the move to Troy was growth of our Oakland County office,” said Dickinson Wright CEO William T. Burgess in a statement, adding that “this growth could not be fully accommodated in our existing Bloomfield Hills space.”

More than one-third of the firm’s 218 Michigan attorneys are based in its Oakland County office, which also includes the firm’s Intellectual Property Academy internship program and a “sizeable proportion” of the firm’s administrative staff.

The Bank of America Building is at 2600 W. Big Beaver Road, Suite 300.

Dickinson Wright was ranked No. 4 in Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s 2011 list of “Largest Law Firms.”

The other three top 10 largest firms with branch offices still in the Woodward-Long Lake area are Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP (No. 2); Dykema Gossett PLLC (No. 5); and Butzel Long (No. 9). No. 8-ranked Plunkett Cooney has its main office across the street from Dickinson Wright’s soon-to-be former Bloomfield Hills branch.

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2011 ‘Largest Law Firms’ directory message: Proceed with caution

Coming off a painful, economically challenging 2009, there were beacons of hope for many of the state’s largest law firms at the end of 2010.

There were positive shifts in work among once-cool practice sectors, such as real estate transactions, commercial contracts and loan originations. And there weren’t any layoffs or practice group dissolutions.

But several managing partners told Michigan Lawyers Weekly in its 2011 edition of “Michigan’s Largest Law Firms” directory, which publishes June 20, that sitting in the driver’s seat still meant impulsively scanning for potholes.

“[T]he last three years in the U.S. has shown it’s a tricky business,” said Michael W. Hartmann of No. 1-ranked Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, P.L.C. (279 attorneys). “In this world, things change pretty quickly, and you have to adapt pretty quickly.

“Law firms have concluded that; I don’t think you can assume what you did two years ago will work two years from now. Law firms have to adapt like clients do — and clients don’t get [much time] to adapt.”

Among the findings in the directory, which chronicles activity from Jan. 1, 2010, to Jan. 1, 2011, among 63 Michigan firms that have 20 or more attorneys:

Alternative billing methods and more-focused client budgets were widespread: As Henry B. Cooney of No. 8-ranked Plunkett Cooney (150 attorneys) explained, “Five, 10 years ago, the idea of having a litigation or transactional budget didn’t exist, at least not very much. It certainly exists today, and we see that quite a bit.”

They also were problematic: “I think most CEOs and general counsel would tell you, people are still trying to figure out alternative fees,” said David Foltyn of No. 2-ranked Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP (228 attorneys). “Clients are still trying to figure out how it works, and lawyers are still far behind in project managing and predictability.”

Lateral recruitment was frequent: And it was advantageous, the principal reason being “you can react to market conditions more quickly,” noted Douglas E. Wagner of No. 3-ranked Warner Norcross & Judd LLP (219 attorneys). “When you’re hiring a law student, you’re projecting out two or three years as to what your needs are going to be, but in a lateral market, you can fill a need within a few months.”

Value still is everything: Coming up with what’s expected from the firm isn’t always what the firm itself expects. Lawrence J. Murphy at No. 7-ranked Varnum LLP (153 attorneys) said one thing that’s been apparent in the past few years “is that clients are increasingly demanding that their law firms provide value as defined by the clients, not as defined by their lawyers.”

Rounding out the 10-largest firms list are Dickinson Wright PLLC (No. 4 with 218 attorneys); Dykema Gossett PLLC (No. 5 with 180); Clark Hill PLC (No. 6 with 166); Butzel Long (No. 9 with 143); and Bodman PLC (No. 10 with 138).

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Dickinson Wright doubles up with chair election

Are two heads better than one? That’s what one of Michigan’s largest law firms is thinking.

On Tuesday, Dickinson Wright PLLC announced that Edward H. Pappas and James A. Samborn were elected co-chairmen of the firm, succeeding Dennis W. Acher.

Both Pappas and Samborn come to the table with a fairly recent canon of leadership — the former was the 2008-09 president of the State Bar of Michigan, while the latter capped 10 years as Dickinson Wright’s CEO.

We can’t help but notice that both of them specialize in commercial litigation and ADR –meaning that they could, if they wanted to, sue each other over office space, then hire one another as mediators.